It is a general manager’s job to maintain his leverage, so Matt Klentak will continue to downplay an offseason that could generate several Phillies trades.
“It’s certainly not the end of the world to go into next year with all of these infielders we currently have in the organization,” Klentak said last week. “We can make that work.”
They could. But a trade makes more sense, even if the rest of baseball is aware of the Phillies’ situation. They, despite owning the worst record in baseball for much of the season, have useful players with higher regarded players behind them.
The winter will be a test for Klentak and his lieutenants. Can they trade from the position-player surplus and gain a pitcher?
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about our infield specifically, and how you make room for all these players,” Klentak said. “That’s something we’re continuing to gather information right now to help us make that decision. I’m sure we’ll field plenty of inquiries throughout the offseason. We’ll just have to see where that takes us.”
He added: “If there’s an opportunity to utilize that depth to help us in other areas, then we’ll consider that as well.”
The issue is this: Teams value players more similarly than ever, especially with the rise of analytics in every front office. The trade market for position players was almost nonexistent at the deadline — Arizona scored J.D. Martinez, the best available bat, for a small prospect cost. Teams are more protective of their prospects than ever. Teams are reluctant to deal pitching, especially if it is young and cheap.
And teams know the shortcomings of Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph, the same shortcomings that have the Phillies considering whether those players belong in their plans.
One thing is clear: The Phillies know where an offseason upgrade must happen.
“Just look around the diamond — we have young, talented players at every position,” Klentak said. “So I do think in terms of offseason investments, the areas for us to make investments and make upgrades are probably going to come more on the pitching side than the position-player side for next year.”
A minor-league regression
Despite Dylan Cozens’ breakout season in 2016 at double-A Reading, considerable doubt swirled around him. Most scouts still viewed him as a possible platoon bat in the majors. No one questioned his prodigious raw power. The most optimistic of scouts slapped an Adam Dunn comparison on Cozens, an outcome the Phillies would gladly accept.
Cozens accrued 560 plate appearances this season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, including the postseason, and struck out 202 times. Among major-league hitters, only Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Colorado’s Trevor Story have posted higher strikeout rates. Cozens did it in the International League.
He’ll repeat triple A in 2018. He saw more lefthanders, more breaking balls and more defensive shifts this season than last. Those will require adjustments. But Klentak thinks Cozens, 23, has a chance because of how the modern game values a player such as him.
“I saw Dylan take some big swings,” said Klentak, who attended the IronPigs’ postseason opener last week. “Dylan Cozens still possesses power that you can’t teach. He can hit the ball further than just about anybody in the minor leagues.
“The way the major-league game is shifting now, strikeouts by themselves are not a terrible thing. When accompanied by power and walks, there are plenty of productive big leaguers that strike out a lot. Dylan will seek to improve upon that and continue try to increase his walks. He’s not a finished product. The good news on that front is that we have two more years of options on him. We have time with Dylan Cozens and we’ll use as much of it as we need to get him where he needs to be, but he is still enormously talented.”
- The Phillies claimed a 5-foot-9 lefthanded reliever named Zac Curtis on waivers from Seattle. Curtis, 25, spent most of his season at double A. In three outings with the Mariners, he gave up no earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. He’ll join the Phillies on Tuesday as an extra arm for the rest of the month. Reliever Jesen Therrien, who might need Tommy John surgery, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
- It is possible the Phillies will carry three catchers on their active roster next season, an idea they considered but scrapped last winter. They could pursue a veteran reserve, one willing to mentor but not play often. The Phillies would add that veteran backstop to Jorge Alfaro and either Andrew Knapp or Cameron Rupp, each of whom has a minor-league option remaining. Rupp is eligible for salary arbitration this winter.
- Pedro Florimon should be ready for spring training, Klentak said. The veteran infielder was diagnosed with a severe ankle sprain, which required surgery. His recovery will last months, not weeks. Why is this significant? Florimon, still a pre-arbitration player but out of options, could be in the team’s 2018 plans as a reserve — or even at second base for the season’s first six weeks if Hernandez is traded. Don’t expect Scott Kingery until sometime in late May or early June.
- Jose Taveras is one of the more interesting Rule 5 decisions for the Phillies. The righthanded starter will turn 24 in November and has led the team’s minor-league system in strikeouts each of the last two seasons. He does not throw hard; Taveras’ fastball lives around 90 mph. But the Dominican appeared to belong in making the jump from single A to triple A this season. The Phillies signed him for $5,000.