Last week, we looked at Part 1 of the Phillies’ offseason plans. Here we are with Part 2 of the Phillies’ StupidMoneySZN projections. Here, we have Plan C and Plan D. These will stray further off the beaten path than A and B and will illustrate possible outcomes where the Phillies miss out on the top pitchers.
Unlike the previous plans, these will include trade predictions. Trades are much more difficult to predict due to the unknown nature of how teams value certain players and prospects and who is or isn’t available. Of course, the most likely scenario is the Phillies do a combination of all of these plans. Here we have attempted to put the plans in tiers in order to display a type of priority order.
Sign Anthony Rendon and Wade Miley. Trade for Jon Gray and Jake McGee
Anthony Rendon, 3B, 29 years old
Rendon is a finalist for the NL MVP award after turning in a brilliant year for the Nationals. He finished first in baseball in RBIs with a career high 126 and fifth in average with a .319 clip. Rendon also set new career highs in home runs with 34 and OPS with a 1.010 mark.
All of that means he will be in for a massive payday. He has been more consistent over his career than either of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but he is two years older, so he will most likely not get the contract length those two did. A good comparison would be the 7 year, $234M extension the Rockies gave their star third baseman Nolan Arenado last offseason. Arenado is a year younger than Rendon, but Rendon now comes with a postseason pedigree.
The thinking here is Rendon will get a 6 or 7 year contract worth somewhere around $220-230M. He’ll come up just a bit short of Arenado in total value because he is entering his 30’s, but he may end up with a higher AAV.
Many may view Rendon as a better use of $200M+ than Gerrit Cole because he is a position player who plays everyday. He would obviously be a dramatic upgrade over Maikel Franco at third for the Phillies. The question is are the Phillies in the camp that views big money for position players over pitching despite their desperate need for top tier pitching.
Trade for Jon Gray and Jake McGee
This is where we will get a little creative. Assuming a big contract given to Rendon and a J.T. Realmuto extension, the Phillies would be up against the luxury tax. John Middleton has recently said the Phillies will go over if they believe they are contending for a championship over a postseason appearance. Here we will assume they go over but still want to limit how much they go over. In this move, they would add a young starter with untapped potential and a competent left handed reliever.
Jon Gray, SP, 28 years old
Gray has alternated between good and subpar seasons pitching in pitcher’s nightmare Coors Field. He had a good 2019, going 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA across 150 innings. Gray also posted a career best ground ball percentage at 50.4% with a steady-yet-unspectacular strikeout percentage of 23.6%. However, his higher career ERA on the road (4.56) as opposed to home in Colorado (4.36) is a bit worrisome.
At a minimum, Gray would be giving the Phillies a good mid-to-back of the rotation arm with top of the rotation upside. The Phillies would be betting on new pitching coach Bryan Price to unlock more of Gray’s potential.
Jake McGee, LHRP, 33 years old
Jake McGee has suffered a bit from the Coors effect. McGee finished 2019 with a 4.35 ERA across 45 appearances. He pitched better on the road than at home, posting a 2.91 ERA in 25 road appearances as opposed to a 5.95 ERA in 20 appearances in Colorado. His opponents’ average is also dramatically better on the road (.235) than at Coors (.341).
McGee was traded to the Rockies before the 2016 season after six good seasons with the Rays. Colorado then signed him to a 3 year, $27M extension in 2017. He is now entering the final guaranteed year of that contract and has a salary of $9.5M. There is a vesting option for 2021 that gives another year for $9M if McGee appears in 60 games or finishes 40 games. McGee has an injury history, having spent time on the IL in 3 of his 4 seasons in Colorado. While part of the Rays organization, McGee had surgery for a torn meniscus in 2015 and Tommy John surgery in 2008.
It’s been reported that the Rockies are looking to shed some payroll after a 71 win season and a franchise record $145M+ in payroll commitments. Trading Gray and McGee would shed roughly $16.1M in 2020 payroll, about 9% of the 2020 payroll as of November.
Wade Miley, LHP, 32 years old
Miley’s 2019 was a tale of two seasons. After an up and down career for five teams, Miley seemed to have figured it out with the Astros in 2019. The lefty was a surprising 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star break.
After a strong July and a solid August, it all fell apart in September. Miley had a ghastly 16.68 ERA in five September starts, giving up 21 earned runs and 28 hits in just 11 ⅓ innings pitched. His September was so rough, it convinced the Astros to leave him off the postseason roster.
If it weren’t for that September, Miley looked like a good candidate to be a steady mid-rotation starter. Now, he has major questions looming over him once again. A one year deal is seemingly in his future, albeit it with plenty of risk attached due to his brutal end to the season.
Trade for Corey Cluber, trade for Lance McCullers Jr., sign Howie Kendrick, sign Will Smith
Trade for Corey Kluber
This is a scenario where the Phillies are unable to land any of the major free agents and are forced to turn to the trade market for starting pitching. Kluber is the best of the available starters, although this year’s crop of available starters via trade isn’t the greatest.
Kluber is entering his age 33 season and is coming off of a lost season for the Indians. He was placed on the 15 day injured list with a fractured ulna in May and then transferred to the 60 day IL in June. Kluber made just seven starts prior to his injury.
Those seven starts were rough ones for the two-time Cy Young winner. Kluber went 1-2 with a 5.80 across 35 ⅓ innings pitched in those starts.
Due to his age and rough, injury-riddled 2019, it’s hard to predict exactly what kind of pitcher Kluber will be in 2020. He has been one of the best pitchers in the American League since 2014, as evidenced by his Cy Young awards in 2014 and 2017, but it’s difficult to foresee him reaching that caliber again. His struggles before the injury cast even more doubt on his future.
Any team trading for Kluber would have to give up prospect capital as well as be on the hook for his $17.5M salary in 2020. Kluber’s contract also has a club option for 2021 at $18M.
Trade for Lance McCullers Jr.
McCullers is another trade candidate who is coming off of a lost season. The 26 year old last pitched in 2018 due to missing the entire 2019 season following Tommy John surgery in November 2018.
McCullers was 10-4 with a 3.77 ERA in 19 starts with the Astros in the first half of 2018. He struggled in four July starts (6.53 ERA) before landing on the injured list on August 5th with right elbow discomfort. That discomfort led to the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for 2019.
The right hander is under team control until 2022 and has a career 3.67 ERA in 83 games. He is a good pitcher when healthy but has had his fair share of injuries even before Tommy John surgery.
Howie Kendrick, INF, 36 years old
Kendrick, former Phillie turned Nationals postseason hero, would be a stopgap for third base or a utility infielder in the event of a bigger name coming to play third or an Alec Bohm promotion. He isn’t a great defender at his age, but his bat continues to produce.
Kendrick finished the 2019 regular season with a .344 average and .966 OPS, a career high in both categories. His 17 home runs fell one short of tying his career high that was set in 2011. However, those 17 long balls are more than Kendrick had in 2017 and 2018 combined (13) and his first total in double digits since hitting 13 in 2013. A one or two year deal for about $7M per would probably suffice.
Will Smith, LHRP, 30 years old
With the Phillies missing on the big name free agent starters in this plan, we’ll have them spending big on the bullpen. Smith is the best reliever on the market and is surely to have a fair share of suitors.
Smith was an All-Star in 2019, posting a 6-0 record and 2.76 ERA across 65 ⅓ innings pitched in 63 appearances. He notched 34 saves in 38 opportunities for the rebuilding Giants. Smith is as steady as they come as well, posting sub 3.00 ERAs in back-to-back seasons and sub 3.50 ERAs in four straight seasons.
The coveted lefty will cash in with a weak relief market. The guess here is he will receive a contract between 3-4 years in length and somewhere between $35-40M total.