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Let's assume Phillies sign Manny Machado - what next?
by Scott Butler 12/8/18

J.A. Happ Phillies

As I pointed out in my last post, one reason to sign Manny Machado over Bryce Harper is that there are better free agent options in the outfield than there are in the infield. So let's go with that for now and say the Phillies sign Manny in a few days. What is the plan after that?

I'm a blogger who literally pays to write about the Phillies (yes, small bloggers like me generally lose money), which gives me the right (right?) to steal lines from "real" writers to make my job easier. I took Corey Seidman's sloppy seconds yesterday, and now I'm going to double down with Todd Zolecki, who wrote this:

The Phillies need to address an offense that did not slug enough last season. Harper or Machado would help fill that void. If they sign Machado, somebody like Michael Brantley or A.J. Pollock could still fit into the outfield.

The Phils need to provide more balance to the rotation. They struck out on left-hander Patrick Corbin, who agreed to terms this week with the Nationals. But the Phillies have options in free-agent left-handers J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Yusei Kikuchi. They also could trade for D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray or Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner.

Philadelphia remains interested in free-agent left-handed relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller. There is no reason the Phillies cannot find a big bat or two, a big rotation arm and a big bullpen arm in the coming weeks or months.

Using that as a launching pad, let's plan the Phillies attack as they enter the Winter Meetings, which begin - teehee - in just two days.

Outfield

The contenders here are A.J. Pollock and Michael Brantley.

If they match their career numbers throughout their contracts, Pollock is the better bet. Here is how his career marks and full-season averages compare to Brantley:

Pollock: .281/.338/.467, .805 OPS, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 26 steals

Brantley: .295/.351/.430, .781 OPS, 13 HR, 81 RBI, 18 steals

The problem with Pollock is that he has an injury history (he's missed 42% of his games since 2014) and MLB Trade Rumors predicts he'll land a four-year, $60 million deal compared to three years/$45 million for Brantley. Brantley is the safer play, he costs less, and he offers only slightly less upside than Pollock.

Pitching

Now that two of the big fish (Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi) are gone, the Phillies are left with the second tier of starting pitchers available in the free agent arena.

Dallas Keuchel probably tops the list, but I'm not so sure he's worth the price. MLB Trade Rumors predicts Keuchel will sign for 4 years/$82 million, which is $34 million more than any pitcher available.

Keuchel was about as dominant as a pitcher gets from 2014 to 2017 with ERA's (starting in 2014) of 2.93, 2.48, 4.55, and 2.90, along with a Cy Young award in 2015. But he has a combined 3.77 ERA in the last three seasons and almost exactly that mark last season (3.74). He still induces grounders more than any other pitcher, but his already low velocity is down a tick and he is starting to get punished for mistakes more than he had in the past.

Too pricey for my taste.

Another option is Yusei Kikuchi, a Japanese pitcher who MLBTR projects to land a 6 year/$42 million deal. I'll say no to him too just because I'm clueless when it comes to those kind of guys. Doesn't mean it's a bad idea, though.

To me, the best idea for the Phillies are two fellas who might not even require you to buy a new uniform: J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton.

MLBTR predicts 3 years and $48 million for Happ and 2 years/$32 million for Morton. For roughly the same price of Keuchel, the Phillies can add two veteran pitchers and be locked in for 3 or less years.

Age (36 for Happ and 35 for Morton) is a clear knock against both pitchers. For Charlie Morton, it's age and health concerns. He missed nearly the entire season in 2012 and again in 2016 (with the Phillies). Two for the price of one sounds like a good deal if you ask me, especially considering how much depth the Phillies have in pitching.

Let's leave the bullpen for another day.

That would give Phillies a lineup that might look like this:

1. Jean Segura, SS
2. Manny Machado, 3B
3. Michael Brantley, LF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Odubel Herrera, RF
6. Roman Quinn, CF
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. Pitcher
9. Cesar Hernandez, 2B

And a rotation that might look like this:

Aaron Nola
Jake Arrieta
J.A. Happ
Charlie Morton
Zach Eflin/Nick Pivetta/Vince Velasquez

That all completely ignores any trades. In this scenario, look at the list of potential Phillies to trade: Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, and two of Velasquez/Pivetta/Eflin.

Excited yet?

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