Twelve days at most after the World Series ends, the decision-makers of the Philadelphia Phillies will know if Jeremy Hellickson will enter spring training as the Opening Day starter for 2017. Basically, if he receives a qualifying offer (QO) five days after the Fall Classic and accepts it a week later, he will also fill one roster slot. That said, general manager Matt Klentak will probably expose some players to the Rule 5 draft in early December.
Considering all moving parts, people weigh their limits, restrictions, data and projections; and they also gamble with their gut feeling for decision-making.
According to Jon Heyman of FanRag, Klentak will pursue an experienced bat or two though free agency to increase the offensive production and veteran presence. Remember, he picked up Hellickson and Charlie Morton to bolster the rotation before swapping Ken Giles for a package of pitching talent. And the executive also favors catcher Jorge Alfaro in ’17 for his elite power, which is reminiscent of the GM’s preference of fireballer Vince Velasquez last March. Those decisions have provided a view to Klentak’s player evaluations heading into the winter, his time frame for rookie auditions and his expectations for success.
Even though he has until November’s end, Klentak has already removed utility man Darnell Sweeney from a 40-man spot: He was part of the Chase Utley trade. In other words, the GM has already begun the weeding-out process, and more roster decisions will happen by mid-October. In fact, he is fully aware of those on the bubble as well.
While everybody now realizes September call-ups did not include J.P. Crawford, what was the main reason? Burning a 40-man slot. Presently, improving the offense will impact the decision-maker’s thinking regarding those 40 spots and the opportunities for farm-system products.
Visiting with offseason questions, Double D, a poster from another site, inquired regarding management’s reasoning between now and year’s end. Well, Klentak’s first order of business is assembling the 40 men for protection by reviewing every important detail: film, scouting reports, in-person observations and input from the managers and coaching staffs in the pipeline. From a distance, however, key ingredients for a total determination are not available. So, this list will include players on the active 25 and prospects ranked on the organization’s top 30 from MLB.com while leaving some slots for flamethrowing relievers and other valuable pieces.
20 Protected Players:
|1.||Velasquez||C Cameron Rupp||C Alfaro||LF Ruf|
|2.||Jerad Eickhoff||1B Tommy Joseph||—||LF Asche|
|3.||Aaron Nola||2B Hernandez||—||LHP Morgan|
|4.||Zach Eflin||SS Galvis||—||RHP Asher|
|6.||Jeanmar Gomez||CF Herrera||—||—|
|7.||Hector Neris||RF Altherr..||—||—|
At his desk, Klentak begins with the current 25 before considering the other 15 openings, but he only lists players under contract and treasured youngsters who may not make the team out of camp next April. In other words, he jots down these seven starters, three bullpen arms and 10 hitters. Yes, the exec knows he’ll shield these 20 players regardless of their status on Opening Day. And as he watches from his perch at the Bank, he continues evaluating Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Adam Morgan, Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche and Darin Ruf to determine the franchise’s needs during the winter.
15 Protected MiLB Players for 2017:
|1.||S-RH Lively||AAA||C Knapp||AAA|
|2.||S-RH Mark Appel||AAA||OF Tyler Goeddel||MLB|
|3.||S-RH Nick Pivetta||AAA||CF Quinn||AA|
|4.||R-RH Jimmy Cordero||AAA||LF Williams||AAA|
|5.||S-RH Ricardo Pinto||AA||RF Dylan Cozens||AA|
|6.||S-LH Elniery Garcia||AA||CF Carlos Tocci||A+|
|7.||R-RH Alberto Tirado||A+||SS Malquin Canelo||A|
|8.||—||—||RF Jose Pujols||A|
While Klentak will make comparisons for the other 20 spots, Double D, the head honcho will be appraising those in the club’s top 30 besides center fielder Roman Quinn, left fielder Nick Williams, receiver Andrew Knapp and righty Ben Lively. In other words, the names on this table are their highest-rated prospects requiring roster protection from the Rule 5 draft. And these 15 players either have decent results and/or enticing raw talent.
During his last monthly visit to organizational affiliates, Klentak paid the closest attention to those in their final season before required protection under the 40-man umbrella. He has been patient with smoke-throwing relievers hitting 95 to 100 mph: Right-handers Jimmy Cordero and Alberto Tirado were in the Ben Revere deal. And although the decision-maker has seen injury to the former and command issues with the latter, he will safeguard both electric arms because their sound is music to his ears. Whoosh! Pop!
Players on the Bubble:
|1.||S-RH Hellickson||MLB||INF Blanco||MLB|
|2.||S-LH Matt Harrison||*DL||—||—|
|3.||R-RH Dalier Hinojosa||AAA||—||—|
|4.||R-RP Luis Garcia||AAA||—||—|
|5.||R-RH Severino Gonzalez||MLB||—||—|
|6.||R-LH Joley Rodriquez||AAA||—||—|
|7.||S-RH David Buchanan||AAAA||—||—|
|8.||R-LH Tom Windle||AA||—||—|
The last five slots will have the complication of other roster possibilities: the QO to Hellickson or signing any free agent without a qualifying offer, like Andres Blanco. In fact, the switch-hitter is an inexpensive, versatile infielder and worth another 162 in Philly; and he’s like a big brother for Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. Additionally, Double D, a southpaw to keep an eye on is Joely Rodriquez, who revived his flagging career in the pen. In other words, if he pitches halfway decent, he will earn a 40-man spot.
Negotiations for the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) will happen in December and will benefit players on the bubble and general managers with a numbers crunch on their rosters. In other words, teams will not be signing the best-available free agents until after the new CBA because the owners want to eliminate the compensatory pick attached to players who received a QO. But while Klentak will probably wait to ink another bat, Double D, this flexibility gives him time to protect an additional prospect or acquire a Rule 5 addition. That stated, Hellickson and his agent Scott Boris will have a huge decision regarding a qualifying offer of $16.7 million in early November because this wrinkle means pushing back free agent signings. Can he risk waiting? Until January?
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