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Inbox: Who are the Phillies' offseason targets?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from fans
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

What's the backup plan if the Phillies don't get Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
-- @Ryanmac818

That is an interesting question as the Phillies enter their most highly anticipated offseason since they signed Jim Thome in December of 2002. I still expect the Phillies to sign Harper or Machado. They have been building for this moment too long not to land somebody.

What's the backup plan if the Phillies don't get Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?
-- @Ryanmac818

That is an interesting question as the Phillies enter their most highly anticipated offseason since they signed Jim Thome in December of 2002. I still expect the Phillies to sign Harper or Machado. They have been building for this moment too long not to land somebody.

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If they don't? Oh boy. It would upset and likely infuriate some fans, but the Phillies would have options. They could change course and sign somebody like left-hander Patrick Corbin, although Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has made his feelings clear about the starting-pitching market. Corbin, though, would make up for the Phillies' lack of offensive punch. They could pursue an elite closer like Craig Kimbrel, athough they might consider a true closer a poor use of resources. (But just imagine Kimbrel and Seranthony Dominguez pitching the late innings next season.)

If the Phillies beefed up the rotation and bullpen, they could sign second-tier free agents to improve the offense and defense. Third baseman Mike Moustakas makes sense, unless the Phillies would prefer to punt and take a run at Nolan Arenado in 2019. The Phillies could get ultra-aggressive in the trade market, too. They have the resources to make a few deals.

But in the end, the preference is obvious: Harper or Machado. Neither of them will solve all of the Phillies' problems, but it would give them a slugger in the middle of the lineup for the next decade, a slugger who arguably has not reached his prime yet.

Will Roman Quinn be roaming center field next season and will Odubel Herrera still be on the roster?
-- @Any2Cards302

Quinn brings too much energy to the field not to be on the Opening Day roster. Defensively, his four Outs Above Average ranked 34th out of 295 outfielders, according to Statcast™. His sprint speed (30.2 ft/sec) ranked third. The only question is how much do the Phillies trust him?

Everybody knows Quinn's extensive injury history. It would be unwise to enter Spring Training assuming he could play 100-plus games in center field. (He has played more than 92 games just once in seven professional seasons.) Plus, while Quinn hit .362 with a .945 OPS in his first 71 plate appearances this season, he hit .145 with a .495 OPS in his final 72. He played with a broken toe most of September, which likely explains some of the struggles, but there are still concerns.

The Phillies could bring back Herrera, betting he will bounce back following a bad year. They could bet on Aaron Altherr rebounding from a bad year, too. Herrera or Altherr would provide insurance in center field if Quinn is hurt or struggles.

Free-agent outfielders like Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen and Curtis Granderson might make some sense, if they are willing to take a reduced role. Yes, Jones, McCutchen and Granderson are not the defenders they once were, but the Phillies have been unafraid to play players out of position. In theory, they could put somebody like Jones, Granderson or McCutchen in the outfield when a pitcher with a high groundball rate (i.e. Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Corbin, etc.) is on the mound. Plus, there is the added bonus that all of them are regarded as good people to have in the clubhouse, giving the Phillies more veteran leadership.

Will Phillies manager Gabe Kapler manage more from his gut rather than analytics?
-- @JoshuaZlatkin

Kapler is probably watching the postseason, saying, "See?!?!" The A's used a relief pitcher as their "opener" in the AL Wild Card Game last week. They lost. The Brewers bullpened Game 1 of the NL Division Series. They just swept the Rockies in the best-of-five series.

"There aren't going to be hard and fast rules to how we use any of our pitchers," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said before Game 1. "Largely, we're trying to get away from what the word 'starter' and 'reliever' means. That's how we're going to get through the postseason, I think."

When I first read that quote last week I said, "Imagine if Kapler said that."

But Brewers fans aren't complaining, because the Brewers are winning and headed to the NLCS. I suspect complaints about analytics and how Kapler uses them would diminish if the Phillies won, too. But I think some fans' (and players') frustrations comes from the feeling that the Phillies go to extremes at times and that perhaps some of the data is not used effectively. The Phillies dispute this, of course. But the best thing for Kapler might be baseball fans in Philly watching an "opener" or two in a World Series filled with four-man outfields, frequent pitching changes and other unconventional moves.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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