Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated gave the Philadelphia Phillies an A- grade for the moves they made during this offseason.
Looking at this offseason on a MLB-wide scale, few would bring up the moves the Phillies made. The White Sox kickstarted their rebuild with two blockbuster trades, and several closers earned record-breaking contracts. Comparatively, the moves made by Philadelphia were rather minute.
The first move Apstein highlighted was trading for Clay Buchholz in exchange for “middling” second base prospect Josh Tobias. She pointed out his inconsistency in Boston, although she did note that his fastball velocity has been the same. Apstein called the move low-risk, citing the fact that Buchholz will be a free agent this offseason.
Apstein also talked about the acquisitions of relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, saying the two “will help stabilize the bullpen.” As with anyone who speaks on the Phils’ moves this winter, she brought up the potential for trading each of them at the trade deadline.
Apstein did mention that it was “certainly not the result Philadelphia…had in mind when it extended him one.” Regardless, Hellickson returning eliminated the need to find another starter in free agency or through a trade.
Turning towards the position players, the only change in the infield is Tommy Joseph becoming the full-time starter at first base as Ryan Howard‘s option was declined. Apstein said, “the club did not have to think too hard about declining the $25 million option on Howard, who posted a career-low 87 OPS+.” This season will be Joseph’s time to prove he can be a major-league caliber first baseman.
The corner outfield positions needed a major revamp this year, and they got exactly that with the trade for Howie Kendrick and the signing of Michael Saunders. Kendrick is set to play left field and Saunders will be in right.
In regards to “unfinished business”, Apstein said a lefty starter “would help” but what the club ultimately needs is time to allow their core of prospects to develop. With J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams all set to reach the majors this year, Apstein expects the team to be good as soon as 2018.
Overall, Apstein praised Klentak for sticking to short-term commitments while leaving the future open. She said:
“General manager Matt Klentak kept his promise, staying away from big commitments in favor of small additions. Aside from the players who are not yet eligible for free agency, only Herrera (who signed a five-year, $30.5 million extension in December) and Saunders (who has an $11 million club option) are signed past this season. That should free up Philadelphia up to take advantage of a decent free-agent class after this year and a historic one, highlighted by divisional rival Bryce Harper, the year after. The Phillies are likely to field a 2017 Opening Day team that will make less than $100 million. Don’t get used to that.”