Phillies: A Look at Upgrading 2nd Base in the Off-season

The Philadelphia Phillies face an interesting off-season as they try to determine the next steps in their rebuilding process, and 2nd base will be especially challenging.

Fans and writers know that the Phillies need to bolster the offense next year. Abysmal offensively, they are scoring 3.65 runs per game, last in MLB, as the 2016 winds down.

The Phils are at or near the bottom in most power-driven statistics, and they simply do not get on base (.296 team OBP through Thursday) frequently enough to generate consistent offense.

Simply put, the Phillies will have to find more ways to score runs in order to be more successful in the standings next season.

Strangely, there may not be much the Phillies can do to get better. Prospects who were thought to be close simply may not be ready yet (J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams), leaving the team with the same options for 2017.

Perhaps the most polarizing figure in the starting lineup this season has been 2nd baseman Cesar Hernandez.

Many fans (this one included) would like nothing more than to see his “reign of error” end. Hernandez’ boneheaded baserunning, lack of power, and positional inflexibility make him expendable.

Others would have you believe that his year has been enough of a success to pause from moving on to any other options. Hernandez, after all, currently leads the team in fWAR (4.0) and has been ever so slightly above average with the bat (wRC+ of 107).

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the team is ready to move on from Hernandez. So what would they have in him?

Hernandez is a 26-year old 2nd baseman who probably is not going to get better than he is already. If that’s true, the Phillies could certainly use an upgrade at that position.

TBOH editor George Stockburger already looked at some possibilities heading into next season, but I wanted to propose another choice.

Would the following numbers interest you as a fan:

A slash line of .277/.346/.464 that would come with 19 home runs, 51 runs batted in, an 8.4 BB%, a 21.8 K%, all in just a shade over 520 plate appearances?

These are the numbers being put up by Logan Forsythe of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sep 3, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe (11) singles during the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Forsythe (11) singles during the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Forsythe’s 121 wRC+ is eighth among all 2nd basemen in Major League Baseball. His glove, while steady, still ranks as slightly below average, but not enough of a deterrent that it should scare off inquiring teams.

He also gets on base at basically the same clip as Hernandez, just with much better power numbers to boot.

Forsythe has also got an extremely team friendly contract. According to Cot’s Contracts, Forsythe is under control for 2017 at $7 million, with a club option in 2018 at $8.5 million, which also has the option of a $1 million buyout.

Should he continue his offense prowess on the Phillies, the team would be getting a prime asset at a very palatable cost. Since no one in the organization’s minors system is banging down the door to play the keystone, he wouldn’t block anyone either.

Forsythe is a better overall player than Hernandez is right now. On the negative side, there is a noticeable gap in their ages, since Forsythe will be 30 years old next season.

While Hernandez has been getting incrementally better, Forsythe is getting better in the categories at which the Phillies currently need to improve.

His slugging percentage has gone up each year since he’s been a regular. His power has been increasing each year since coming to Tampa Bay, having gone from a half-dozen to 17 to 19 home runs over the last three seasons.

All of these factors would mean that he could be an expensive get as far as a trade return needed for a team such as Tampa Bay, one that values getting production at a cheap cost.

We could sit here and make up fake trades, but it makes more sense to ask someone with knowledge of the team. So, I asked fellow TBOH writer and DRraysBay blogger John Town what positions Tampa is skimpy at in the minor leagues. His response:

Catcher is No. 1. Otherwise an elite upper minors outfielder or corner infielder at any level. This especially is in need, first is decent. ~ Rays’ writer John Town

That sounds like something we can work with. With the emergence of Cameron Rupp this year as an acceptable option behind the plate, that frees the team to dangle one of their catching prospects.

Personally, I’d rather they keep Jorge Alfaro since he seems a better bet to become a real star behind the dish, so let’s start our proposed offer with Andrew Knapp.

I think we can also include Rhys Hoskins in such a deal. His numbers at Reading this season (38 home runs, 116 RBI) have been eye-popping. He’s been an offensively robust player ever since he was drafted (wRC+ over 112 at every stop in MiLB).

He’s not someone who scouts think will continue to produce those numbers at the big league level. They do not see him as this kind of player once he faces Major League pitching.

Plus, converting someone like Maikel Franco to 1st base might be in the team’s future as it is. Let’s put Hoskins into the deal too.

Finally, we could let Tampa choose from a plethora of high risk/high reward arms the team is storing in Low-A Clearwater. Since they have so many, losing one who is pretty far away wouldn’t be too harmful to the next contending Phillies team.

So, in order to acquire Logan Forsythe and enable the team to get better offensively, they are parting with Knapp, Hoskins and a low-A wild card arm.

While it could be fair in our eyes, the front offices may see differently. Regardless, it’s still worth exploring for the Phillies to see if they can pry Forsythe away from the Rays.

Forsythe would be a nice addition to a 2017 Phillies team that might have playoff aspirations. At the least, he’d make them more interesting, and less frustrating, to watch over the course of the season than another year of Hernandez.

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