Inbox: Should the Phils be free-agent players?
Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers Phillies fans' questions
Do you think the Phillies should sign a few of the more high-profile free agents? I think the Phils will be ready to roll in a year or two, once their top prospects reach the big leagues, and by signing free agents now, they won't have to wait to win.
-- Scott M., Media, Pa.
Actually, I believe patience is prudent here. It's easy to get excited about the Phillies' top prospects, but let's be realistic, too. Nobody knows how many of them will perform to their potential in the big leagues. Nobody knows which ones, either.
Remember, the top talent evaluators in baseball once considered Domonic Brown the best prospect in the game. That's why I liked team president Andy MacPhail's answer to the same question in September. MacPhail said, "There is some talent that we think is viable talent, but it needs to come percolate and demonstrate that it's real. And after that period, you might go forward. But do you really want to commit after you've just been in that pool and suffered from it? Do you really want to commit at this stage?"
In other words, it doesn't make sense to invest hundreds of millions of dollars today into two or three free agents, not knowing if J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, etc., are going to pan out. And while I understand there might be more quality arms available this offseason than potentially will be available in future offseasons, it's not a good enough reason to commit all that money on a bet that most of the Phillies' prospects will meet or exceed expectations. If the time comes in a year or two to add an ace or a big bat, the Phils can find a way. There is always a way.
I guess the Phillies are on the "Moneyball" bandwagon with general manager Matt Klentak in charge?
-- Ryan I., Glen Mills, Pa.
Analytics will be a key component in Philadelphia's decision making moving forward. Phillies partner John Middleton has made that very clear. But Klentak isn't going to be dismissing his scouts, either. Everything I've heard about Klentak is that he is very well-balanced in his decision making. He will use every piece of information available to make the most informed decision possible. So will the Phils be closely examining analytics as they enter the free-agent market? Yes. But will it be the only thing they consider? Absolutely not.
Will Jeff Francoeur be back?
-- Ryan L., Cherry Hill, N.J.
Francoeur indicated that he would like to return to Philly, and it makes sense for the Phillies to try. And not because the Phils can't find a better bat than Francoeur, although he hit 13 home runs with 45 RBIs and a .718 OPS in 343 plate appearances in 2015.
No, I think Francoeur's greatest value is his ability to influence a clubhouse full of young players on a rebuilding team that likely will be expected to lose more than it wins in 2016. Francoeur is high energy. He is positive. He gets along with everybody, crossing cultural divides in the clubhouse. Francoeur is a vocal leader, too -- something the Phillies' clubhouse needs.
Could Philadelphia find a more SABR-friendly veteran outfielder this offseason? Sure, but Francoeur is the type of player that could pay off in different ways in a few years. He can show the Phils' young players how to work and act like a professional. Francoeur can show them how to get through slumps and losing streaks, etc. Those things seem more valuable to me at this point than another veteran outfielder who might be able to win an extra game in 2016, in what remains a lengthy rebuilding process.